Trust the Germans to have created a word for this feeling: rückkehrunruhe (don’t worry, I don’t even think Germans themselves know how to pronounce that). It’s the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip, only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness. Lately, I’ve self-diagnosed myself with the obscure but piercingly real rückkehrunruhe, as just under two months ago, I returned from a 9-month life abroad in Dijon, France. Already, I feel like I have to keep reminding myself that it all actually happened, even though it felt so vivid just days ago. As Cayly only sets out to begin her exciting journey in South Korea, so mine has come to an end, and upon my dear friend’s request, I welcomed the idea of speaking about the art of returning home.
Coming home feels good. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll readily be welcomed back into a loving circle of people who genuinely care for you and thought of you when you weren’t there. Yet, the truth of the matter is that thanks to the era of social mediums like Facebook, where everyone can monitor your daily misdemeanours, people will feel like they kept up with the Jones’s well enough and have an idea of what you got up to. It’s one of the key reasons I won’t be going to my 10-year-reunion. 25 years ago (PI – that’s Pre-Internet), you had no clue who was up to what and curiosity got the better of most cats, who would clamor to the boast-fest that most reunions inevitably end up being, in an effort to suss out while being sussed. Nowadays, thanks to social media in every format, the interest is sedated with an easy and shameless Facebook stalk (don’t pretend you haven’t, because we all know you have).
‘So how was it?’, I’ve had friends recite between a relatively steady rhythms of ‘welcome backs!’ and ‘I’ve missed you’. Generally speaking, you’ll be awarded a 30 second span of attention before the topic of conversation moves on elsewhere. And that’s fair enough – who wants to listen to a drone of hour-long descriptions about the sweet cobbled stones of Dijon walkways and your favourite sellerman at the Saturday morning market who specialised in Catalan dried saucisson? Theoretically, summing up a nine month experience in a few sentences isn’t doable. Realistically, it feels impossible. And that’s not just when it comes to talking to friends, but even when it comes to my own thoughts. ‘Did I really just spend the better half of being 25 living in a quaint French town and learning about wine?’. At no point does that sentence sound true to me.
At the end of the day, you change, and whether you or your friends recognize it or not, it’s a fact. Travel and time are catalysts for personal growth, and more often than not, the results aren’t immediately perceptible. While no one may want to hear about that time you drank all the Champagne at a fancy tasting and headed out to scout a department store for stickers with your best friend, you carry those experiences with you, in a backpack of memories, and they sort of start cross dissolving into your everyday life. You may think you’re forgetting them, but instead, I like to think of each of those experiences as heaps of cocoa, melting into your steamed cup of life milk that only makes your cocoa richer and tastier. You may not remember every single moment, and the smells and tastes may fade, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Your life, the one you had before you left and the one you lead when you get back, becomes like a superimposed picture, that when you take a step back, look like a whole. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Here’s wishing you an incredible time abroad Miss Cayly, and remember, even when it’s time to call cut on the travel scene, the show will go on.